Sidebar

Watson for i: Watson Can Help Forge Links in Your Supply Chain

Business Intelligence
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

The IBM umbrella of supply chain services includes more than a dozen options, some of which are Watson-specific. Here’s a breakdown of the major features of each service.

In 2010, IBM acquired Sterling Commerce from AT&T as a way to expand the products and services it could offer for supply-chain operations. Today, with supply-chain-service additions under its Watson brand, IBM offers 15 cloud-based SaaS solutions to help enterprises with supply-chain tasks.

Stephen Bedford, vice president of sales at Shree Consulting, a California-based company that specializes in Watson and IBM/Sterling supply-chain solutions, provides some insights and cuts down on the clutter in figuring out which solutions might be right for your B2B and B2C operations.

Like most consulting companies, Shree’s basic methodology starts with examining an enterprise and its current systems.

“Understanding the customer’s business is one of the most critical steps in our process,” Bedford explains. “As part of our discovery process, speaking with the line-of-business owners as well as the technical teams helps Shree attain a good understanding of the current business challenges as well as the foreseeable business direction, goals, and strategy. This may take the form of multiple meetings with various stakeholders or an on-site business value assessment. This process lets Shree define with the customer the most appropriate solution that aligns with the customer’s strategy and meets the customers’ current and long-term business goals.”

IBM’s Six Major Industries of Supply Chains

“IBM defines six major industries for supply chain,” Bedford continues. “These are financial services, industrial, public, federal, distribution, and communications and systems integrators. While no one solution is exclusive to a customer segment or industry, certain solutions are most common across the different industries.”

The IBM Sterling Collaboration Network (also called the IBM B2B Collaboration Network) is a secure communications network between more than 300,000 businesses worldwide. It helps facilitate file transfers, EDI, and national-language translations between potential business partners. Similarly, the IBM Supply Chain Business Network (SCN) is an IBM Watson value-added network (VAN) that provides supply-chain optimization, B2B collaboration, and order management and fulfillment services.

“The IBM SCN solution is relevant to all markets and industries,” Bedford explains. “The one fundamental requirement for the customer is that they are capable of generating an EDI transaction themselves. The SCN is a hub for EDI transactions across the globe. It enables connectivity for a very small cost to hundreds of thousands of trading partners’ endpoints, specifically to facilitate B2B EDI transactions. Using a service like this relieves the company that originates the transaction from installing, maintaining, and administering large concentrations of network capability and capacity, as well as avoiding the overhead of managing the trading partner information.”

The Sterling File Transfer Service (FTS) is a cloud-based managed file-transfer service. Its usage models and pricing are based on file sizes, traffic volume, and number of partners. It’s particularly useful for businesses that want to move large files or have high traffic volume. “This service is similar to the SCN,” Bedford points out. “The difference between them is that, under the Sterling FTS, EDI data is formatted with a standard unique identifier (i.e., identifying the originator and the destination of the transaction) that enables any processor to automatically route it. FTS offers a vast array of protocol support, security options, and transfer options, again mitigating the need for the end customer to support a large and costly communication network, administration staff, and redundant systems.”

IBM Sterling B2B Integration Services “is a suite of SaaS offerings,” Bedford notes. The Basic version provides translation and exchange of documents from one format to another and one communications protocol to another. The Plus version adds process-management services and other options, particularly for international supply chains. “At the most basic level, the service can generate EDI transaction data from normal documents (i.e., Excel, web forms, faxes),” Bedford expounds, “but this is normally applicable to very small organizations that don’t have the systems or applications that can generate an EDI transaction. However, the suite also has applicability to larger organizations that may have all the capabilities to handle EDI themselves but have a number of smaller trading partners who cannot send or receive EDI. Such organizations would use this type of service to increase their number of EDI-capable trading partners and relieve themselves of additional administration.

“As you move up into the EDI managed-service offerings in this suite,” Bedford continues, “IBM provides communications and implementation services, mapping exchanges, trading partner setup and testing, and can even manage the ongoing trading partner relationship.”

SaaS for Supply Chain Is Revamping B2B Transactions

Bedford notes that moving to managed services for handling EDI and other B2B transactions is a rising trend. “Many large organizations are moving from on-premise to hybrid or full SaaS models. This is applicable to organizations and industries of all sizes. The most prolific adopters of SaaS are from the industrial, communications, distribution, and public sectors.” However, “the financial, federal, and healthcare sectors that are traditionally more regulated and risk-adverse are now also gaining momentum via these SaaS offerings.”

There are seven other IBM offerings that are on-premise solutions for creating and managing EDI and file transfer services. IBM Sterling B2B Integrator handles integration security. IBM Sterling File Gateway offers secure and encrypted file transfers. IBM Control Center tracks and logs B2B activities to demonstrate compliance and help troubleshoot process failures. IBM Partner Engagement Manager centralizes control of B2B actions and support activities. IBM Transformation Extender automates validation and transformation of data between different formats and protocols. IBM Sterling Secure Proxy provides a “demilitarized zone” between networks and added authentication features that increase transactional security. IBM Sterling Connect:Direct provides secure, high-volume, point-to-point file transfer connectivity without relying on the File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

Of this group, Bedford states, “Order management and fulfillment solutions help you efficiently provide customers what they want, where and when they want it, through real-time global inventory visibility, sophisticated sourcing and fulfillment logic across all channels, and intelligent linking of inventory to demand. All of these solutions have significant relevance across all industries and sectors.

“However, there are some sectors where parts of this portfolio are more dominant. For financial services, those are Sterling File Gateway, Transformation Extender, Control Center, Secure Proxy, Connect:Direct, and Partner Engagement Manager. For healthcare, Transformation Extender, Control Center, Secure Proxy, and Connect:Direct are most commonly used. For federal, Sterling File Gateway, Transformation Extender, Control Center, Secure Proxy, and Connect:Direct are the most usual options. For the industrial, integrator, and public markets, all solutions in the portfolio are in use.”

There are still more products in IBM’s supply-chain portfolio.

IBM Order Management provides a centralized view of inventory, lets users customize order execution, and summarizes order information from all channels. IBM Store Engagement keeps track of all transactions for brick-and-mortar emporiums, including inventory, credit-card processing, and goods-delivery options.

IBM Watson Order Optimizer helps omni-channel retail outlets analyze their operations using a wide array of data. IBM Watson Commerce Insights provides an “insights assistant” that can analyze under-performing products and categories in online stores, predict actions that can stimulate customers to buy more, and notify users of abnormal business conditions that may need intervention. “These solutions are most prevalent in industrial, integrator, and public sectors, with the predominance in retail and manufacturing,” Bedford shares.

Shree Consulting’s familiarity with Sterling Commerce’s product line and IBM’s adaptations of it have been come by honestly.

“Shree Consulting originated from a group of individuals who had been part of the original Sterling EDI and managed file transfer consulting solutions group. As the demand for expertise and resources grew with the adoption of enterprise-level solutions around EDI and files transfer rather than “home grown” or multiple point products, the new drivers in EDI and managed file transfer became platform and product consolidation, integration, solution manageability, end-to-end visibility, high availability, and data security. IBM solutions are the most enterprise-robust because they provide reliability, performance, and scalability and integration capabilities, combined with the integration of superior analytics and the potential of cognitive via Watson,” Bedford declares.

What Do You Need to Call Your Supply Chain “Modern?”

Given the cornucopia of supply-chain options available just from IBM, what does it take for an enterprise to be satisfied (at least for today) that its B2B operations are “modern”?

“There are many elements that make up the supply-chain critical path,” Bedford reflects. “The supply chain continues to evolve. Initially, organizations that had a digital supply chain focused on each element in the supply chain interacting electronically with each other, therefore the need for enterprise integration. Next was to have visibility across the supply chain, to know the status at every stage through the critical path, and to provide end-to-end visibility,” he reviews.

“The next step in the evolution is to encompass elements that are outside of the supply chain itself that have a direct impact on the chain and to be able to understand the impact of those outside elements. An excellent example of this would be weather. The impact of weather can cause disruption to any part of the supply chain, especially in the delivery path, whether that be from manufacturer to distributor or distributor to retail. Any significant weather event can cause a negative disruption to the supply chain. Equally, a weather event can provide an opportunity to change your supply chain to add inventory to a geographic location directly due to that event.

“Applications and solutions that can add elements of information to your supply chain and then additionally make proactive, cognitive recommendations based on the individual business using that information is the next evolution in supply-chain thinking,” Bedford concludes.

John Ghrist

John Ghrist has been a journalist, programmer, and systems manager in the computer industry since 1982. He has covered the market for IBM i servers and their predecessor platforms for more than a quarter century and has attended more than 25 COMMON conferences. A former editor-in-chief with Defense Computing and a senior editor with SystemiNEWS, John has written and edited hundreds of articles and blogs for more than a dozen print and electronic publications. You can reach him at ghrist@comcast.net.

More Articles By This Author
Related Articles
BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

RESOURCE CENTER

  • WHITE PAPERS

  • WEBCAST

  • TRIAL SOFTWARE

  • White Paper: Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization

    SB Profound WP 5539

    If your business is thinking about modernizing your legacy IBM i (also known as AS/400 or iSeries) applications, you will want to read this white paper first!

    Download this paper and learn how Node.js can ensure that you:
    - Modernize on-time and budget - no more lengthy, costly, disruptive app rewrites!
    - Retain your IBM i systems of record
    - Find and hire new development talent
    - Integrate new Node.js applications with your existing RPG, Java, .Net, and PHP apps
    - Extend your IBM i capabilties to include Watson API, Cloud, and Internet of Things


    Read Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization Now!

     

  • Profound Logic Solution Guide

    SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation.
    Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects.
    The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the companyare not aligned with the current IT environment.

    Get your copy of this important guide today!

     

  • 2022 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results

    Fortra2022 marks the eighth edition of the IBM i Marketplace Survey Results. Each year, Fortra captures data on how businesses use the IBM i platform and the IT and cybersecurity initiatives it supports.

    Over the years, this survey has become a true industry benchmark, revealing to readers the trends that are shaping and driving the market and providing insight into what the future may bring for this technology.

  • Brunswick bowls a perfect 300 with LANSA!

    FortraBrunswick is the leader in bowling products, services, and industry expertise for the development and renovation of new and existing bowling centers and mixed-use recreation facilities across the entertainment industry. However, the lifeblood of Brunswick’s capital equipment business was running on a 15-year-old software application written in Visual Basic 6 (VB6) with a SQL Server back-end. The application was at the end of its life and needed to be replaced.
    With the help of Visual LANSA, they found an easy-to-use, long-term platform that enabled their team to collaborate, innovate, and integrate with existing systems and databases within a single platform.
    Read the case study to learn how they achieved success and increased the speed of development by 30% with Visual LANSA.

     

  • Progressive Web Apps: Create a Universal Experience Across All Devices

    LANSAProgressive Web Apps allow you to reach anyone, anywhere, and on any device with a single unified codebase. This means that your applications—regardless of browser, device, or platform—instantly become more reliable and consistent. They are the present and future of application development, and more and more businesses are catching on.
    Download this whitepaper and learn:

    • How PWAs support fast application development and streamline DevOps
    • How to give your business a competitive edge using PWAs
    • What makes progressive web apps so versatile, both online and offline

     

     

  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks

     

     

  • Why Migrate When You Can Modernize?

    LANSABusiness users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.
    In this white paper, you’ll learn how to think of these issues as opportunities rather than problems. We’ll explore motivations to migrate or modernize, their risks and considerations you should be aware of before embarking on a (migration or modernization) project.
    Lastly, we’ll discuss how modernizing IBM i applications with optimized business workflows, integration with other technologies and new mobile and web user interfaces will enable IT – and the business – to experience time-added value and much more.

     

  • UPDATED: Developer Kit: Making a Business Case for Modernization and Beyond

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Having trouble getting management approval for modernization projects? The problem may be you're not speaking enough "business" to them.

    This Developer Kit provides you study-backed data and a ready-to-use business case template to help get your very next development project approved!

  • What to Do When Your AS/400 Talent Retires

    FortraIT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators is small.

    This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn:

    • Why IBM i skills depletion is a top concern
    • How leading organizations are coping
    • Where automation will make the biggest impact

     

  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Encryption on IBM i Simplified

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDB2 Field Procedures (FieldProcs) were introduced in IBM i 7.1 and have greatly simplified encryption, often without requiring any application changes. Now you can quickly encrypt sensitive data on the IBM i including PII, PCI, PHI data in your physical files and tables.
    Watch this webinar to learn how you can quickly implement encryption on the IBM i. During the webinar, security expert Robin Tatam will show you how to:

    • Use Field Procedures to automate encryption and decryption
    • Restrict and mask field level access by user or group
    • Meet compliance requirements with effective key management and audit trails

     

  • Lessons Learned from IBM i Cyber Attacks

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDespite the many options IBM has provided to protect your systems and data, many organizations still struggle to apply appropriate security controls.
    In this webinar, you'll get insight into how the criminals accessed these systems, the fallout from these attacks, and how the incidents could have been avoided by following security best practices.

    • Learn which security gaps cyber criminals love most
    • Find out how other IBM i organizations have fallen victim
    • Get the details on policies and processes you can implement to protect your organization, even when staff works from home

    You will learn the steps you can take to avoid the mistakes made in these examples, as well as other inadequate and misconfigured settings that put businesses at risk.

     

     

  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    SB PowerTech WC GenericWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks

     

     

  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

  • Comply in 5! Well, actually UNDER 5 minutes!!

    SB CYBRA PPL 5382

    TRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms.

    Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product.

    Request your trial now!

  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    FortraRobot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    FortraRobot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.